overnights

Luther Season Premiere Recap: The Ball Jar

Luther

Episode 1
Season 5 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating *****

Luther

Episode 1
Season 5 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Des Willie/BBCAmerica

John Luther is tired. It’s all over his face. He can barely keep his eyes open at the end of a long day, and hardly knows his own reflection in the mirror at its outset. Wedging himself between hardened criminals like George Cornelius (Toodle pip, everyone!) and deviant weirdos like Dr. Vivien Lake (Hermione Norris) takes its toll. The poor guy can’t even keep from passing out on the kitchen table (such as it is) in his Winkley Street flat and is too zonked to hear that his new partner/protégé D.S. Catherine Halliday (Wunmi Mosaku) is blowing up his phone, certain there was something amiss in their latest closed case.

What Johnny Boy needs is a familiar face from times gone by to spice up his life, to make the revolving door of detectives and evildoers worth being spun around by again. Enter Alice, who — if I may take a slight (very slight) bow — clearly survived the Belgian jewelry heist and has a score to settle with Cornelius. She arrives at a gobsmacked Luther’s door at precisely the right moment, as Cornelius and his thugs are bearing down, certain that John knows more than he’s letting on about the kidnapping of George’s oldest son, Aleister. (Confused yet? Just wait.) Halliday and D.S.U. Schenk are also en route, which is going to make things pretty precarious for our favorite ethically challenged lawman and his newly returned partner-in-vigilantism. (That would be Luther and Alice, respectively.) The closing credits give an indication of the chaos to ensue, but let’s first retrace the bloody footsteps and fingerprints that left their mark on “Episode 1” (there will be four), BBC America’s first new Luther offering in well over three years.

In terms of timelines, it’s not clear how long Dr. Lake and her husband Jeremy (Enzio Cilenti) have been married, or whether they’ve been engaged in some serious psychosexual nastiness for the duration. Frankly, much of what enshrouds Dr. Lake is mysterious and muddled. Such disorientation is by design, no doubt, but it’s also distracting. If we’re to piece it together, it appears James Hauser (Jamie Reid-Quarell) was one of the good doc’s more disturbed patients, and she exploited that to keep police off Jeremy’s trail. Except Jeremy got a tad too impulsive killing that 23-year-old woman and her bus driver, leaving Dr. Lake no choice but to lead the cops directly to James, who killed himself when cornered in a decrepit Hampstead Woods facility. Ergo, Vivien and Jeremy were off Luther’s radar, but down one invaluable subservient in their three’s-a-party fetish. And Jeremy was properly brought home in the trunk of their car, violently admonished and subjected to a primitive power-washing.

James wasn’t the only chap staring down death amid the dreck of some abandoned public space. Luther and Benny go off book (that didn’t take long) to entrap one of George’s bodyguards, Errol (Michael Obiora), and coerce him into wearing a wire while Cornelius brainstorms how to handle the whole my-kid’s-bound-and-gagged-somewhere-for-ransom situation. Alas, Errol sweats and fidgets like a cockroach in midsummer heat when he’s anxious. Before long, George smells a rat, puts two and two together about Luther’s involvement, drags Errol toward said undisclosed location, and straps a bomb to his neck. Luther and Benny save the day (naturally) seconds prior to Errol’s coconut going kablooey, but as Errol cautions, they’ve opened up a serious can of geese.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Aleister’s elusive captor — who took at least one bullet from George’s sawed-off rifle in their sole encounter — has anything to do with the aforementioned jewelry heist, which could ensnare Alice (and by extension, Luther) in the weeds of this whole Cornelius conundrum. Hell, maybe she’s behind the kidnapping herself.

We’ll save that for another overcast London afternoon. At present, there’s more than enough for Luther and his colleagues — Schenk, equally weary, has taken to chasing down dreary assignments with swigs from a flask — to digest. Dead tweaker Lee Peck’s eyeballs and tongue are submerged in goo inside a jar left on James’s desk; millennial dating-site seducer Paul Redford was left rotting in his ground-level flat and plugged up with nails like a hard-core Hellraiser fanatic; Luther’s still recovering from the taser shocks and right hands he absorbed from Cornelius’s thugs early on (which John duly accepted as squaring up that whole cuffed-to-the-refrigerator business last they tangoed); and at least one sicko’s slinking through the city’s streets with a CCTV-blinding LCD mask at the presumed behest of his kinky spouse/shrink.

So, to answer D.S. Halliday’s question, it’s normal enough.

Apart From All That:

• This Luther feels a bit more back-to-basics, if still winkingly aware of its excesses.

• A bit more on psychiatric countertransference.

• Something tells me the torch is being passed to Halliday for a spinoff.

• Someone make the “I don’t know about ethically, but as long as it’s legal I’m okay with it” Luther tee today.

• Nice opening-scene deke, with the lady teacher surviving. Luther has evolved!

• Memo to all young lovebirds: Find a bench not situated in a dense, foggy forest to make out on if you can help it.

Luther Season Premiere Recap: The Ball Jar